Earth Day & Collaboration for Restoration

Today is Earth Day. The first Earth Day took place in 1970, and is widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, marked by more than a billion people every year as a day of action to change human behaviour and create global, national and local policy changes that benefit our planet earth

You may have noticed that we are in the business of conservation and restoration, and therefore thought we would write about some work we undertook recently that embodies Earth Day’s spirit of inspiring global efforts to ensure our planet has a thriving future. Reaching across the divides of geography, language and culture, in real collaboration for restoration, Kazakh and Tanzanian conservationists met in the Serengeti to share best practices for grassland protection and management.

Tumbleweed on the plains of Kazakhstan


Representatives from the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan and the Vice Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Kazakhstan with colleagues from the Committee for Forestry and Wildlife visited Frankfurt Zoological Society’s Tanzanian operations on 17-24 September to share experiences in conservation management, anti-poaching, and to learn about international best practices in protected areas management. Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) is one of the founding partners of the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative.

Tanzania is home to world-leading centres of eco-tourism, including the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti National Park, and has accumulated a wealth of experience in managing them. As it turns out, there are more similarities between the two countries than might first appear. Despite their different climatic conditions, the countries are united by the sheer scale of protected grassland areas and the consequent complexity of protecting such large areas, rich in wildlife.

Horns: a shared driver for sharp declines

The issue regarding the persecution of the black rhinoceros proved to be closely related to saiga conservation work in Kazakhstan. Rhinoceros horns, like saiga horns, are one of the most valuable objects of poaching and illegal trade globally. For rhino, this resulted in all but three individuals poached in Tanzania by 1995. For saigas, poaching for their meat and horns in Kazakhstan resulted in the fastest decline of a mammal species in history; a 97% reduction in 20 years. Much effort has been put into increasing the rhino and saiga populations in both countries. In Tanzania, this includes the development of a dedicated rhino protection unit using state of the art conservation technology. The Ngorongoro- Serengeti ecosystem remains one of a kind for harbouring free ranging black rhinos. The attention the Tanzanian government has paid to rhino protection mirrors in many ways the fight against saiga antelope poaching in Kazakhstan. For example, the decades long hunting moratorium, large scale, well-organised anti-poaching work across and between the protected areas and regular aerial surveillance. For both animals, icons of grassland ecosystems, these interventions have led to successful increases in population size.

The Kazakh delegation with Tanzania’s specialist rhino protection unit

Creating benefits for people

The delegation from Kazakhstan visited the Ngorongoro and Serengeti National Parks and had official meetings with Tanzanian National Parks Authority (TANAPA), the Tanzanian Wildlife Authority (TAWA), FZS Tanzania and local communities within the Wildlife Management Area. During the working meetings the partners provided extremely useful examples on the systems used to issue licenses for hunting, the management of sustainable trophy hunting, and measures for compensation to people for damage caused by wild animals to private property. They also learned about good practice regarding law enforcement and protection e.g. information on the interactions between nature protection agencies and the police, experience in anti- poaching, effective methods of patrolling and detention and the use of high-tech tracking, communication and warning systems. Kazakhstan makes good use of modern technologies across its nature protection portfolio and these meetings have reinforced good practice and inspired new approaches that have been tested in the similar conditions of Tanzania.

Of particular note, the delegation from Kazakhstan were impressed to see the importance of photo safaris as revenue creation in practice. In one community living in a Wildlife Management Area adjacent to the Serengeti National Park, we learned that 90% of their million-dollar annual revenue was sourced from the tourism associated with the photo safari industry.

Impala grazing inside Serengeti National Park

In conclusion

Stephanie Ward, FZS’s Project Leader for Kazakhstan accompanied the delegation to Tanzania and said “Our delegation, led by the Vice-Minister of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of Kazakhstan, learned a lot from this visit. This visit was about knowledge sharing and we uncovered a great many areas of potential future collaboration between the two countries. This was the beginning of a rich cooperation for the future of grassland wildlife”.

FZS supports knowledge exchange across its focal countries in different parts of the world. Celebrating this on Earth Day 2023 acknowledges the necessary actions we all need to take to address the challenges we face collectively as humans in our ecosystems.

This trip was organized as part of the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative, spearheaded in Kazakhstan by ACBK with financial and technical support from Fauna & Flora International (FFI), Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), and the Royal Society for Protection of Birds, and in partnership with the Kazakh government’s Committee for Forestry and Wildlife, part of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources.

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